Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Eight

By Peter Wood on April 16, 2014
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Eight
“Tex is an insane party animal—but he’s also a very intelligent and spiritual person.”

“When I need inspiration, I turn to The Bible. It’s helped me through some dark times. And, believe me, there’s been many dark times…”

I asked professional fighters to finish this sentence: “MY FAVORITE BOOK IS…” Their responses were fascinating and illuminating; sometimes surprising and sometimes just plain funny. 

If the adage, “We are what we eat” is true, then “We are what we read” might also be true.

Read the responses of these tough guys, (and tough girls), and peek into the soul of a prizefighter.

1. Deontay Wilder—“The Bronze Bomber”—2008 Heavyweight Bronze Medalist for the United States at the Olympics in Beijing, China

o 2007 National Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion
o 2007 United States Amateur Heavyweight Champion
o 2007 U.S. heavyweight representative at the World Championships in Chicago
o Defeated Malik Scott (KO 1)
o Defeated Nicolai Firtha (KO 1)
o Defeated Liakhovich (KO 1)
o Defeated Audley Harrison (TKO 1)
o Played basketball in college
o Won 31 (KO 31) + lost 0 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 31 rounds boxed 54 KO% 100

Deontay Wilder’s Favorite Book: Iron Mike: A Mike Tyson Reader by Daniel O’Conner

“I vow to read more. But I like reading about Mike Tyson. He’s an interesting guy.”

2. Randall “Tex” Cobb—Rugged Heavyweight Contender

o Cobb is known for his roles in Police Academy 4, Citizens on Patrol, Raising Arizona, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Golden Child, Liar Liar, Naked Gun 33 1/3, The Final Insult, Fletch Lives, and Ernest Goes to Jail.
o Attended Abilene Christian University and graduated magna cum laude from Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in sport and recreation management
o Cobb was also a kickboxer and fought for the PKA Heavyweight Championship in 1984; he had a record of 9-2, with 9 knockouts
o Defeated Leon Spinks (W10)
o Defeated Earnie Shavers (TKO 8)
o Defeated Bernardo Mercado (W10)
o Defeated Harry Terrell (KO 5)
o Jeff Shelberg (KO 7)
o Won 42 (KO 35) + lost 7 (KO 1) + drawn 1 = 51 rounds boxed 221 KO% 68.63

Randall “Tex” Cobb’s Favorite book: The Bible

“There was a time when Tex attended Bible study and read one book only—The Bible. His favorite scripture was, ironically, Ephesians. He hated reading the movie scripts for the films he starred in. He wouldn’t read a script. At one time, he had, like, a photographic memory and I simply had to read him his lines only once and he would have it down. But, no, Tex wasn’t big on books, although he graduated magna cum laude from Temple University. One of his close friends is Pete Dexter, the author. In a notorious 1982 Grays Ferry incident Tex came to the defense of Dexter, who, during the course of a bar brawl, was severely beaten. Cobb rescued him and endured a broken arm. I’m sure Tex read Dexter’s books, but in his free time, Tex preferred playing cards. His keen memory helped him when playing Hearts, a game that relies heavily on memory. Tex is an interesting dichotomy—he’s an insane party animal—a wild man—but he’s also a very intelligent and spiritual person.” – Sharon Cobb/ex-wife

3. Alvin “Blue” Lewis—Heavyweight Contender in 1960s-‘70s

o Lost to Muhammad Ali in Ireland (TKO 11)
o Defeated Dick Wipperman (W 10)
o Defeated Eduardo Corletti (KO 2)
o Defeated Cleveland Williams (TKO 4)
o Won 30 (KO 19) + lost 6 (KO 3) + drawn 0 = 36

Alvin “Blue” Lewis’ Favorite Book: “The Life and Strife of Sonny Liston” by Robert Steen

“I read this book when I was in jail. I took knowledge and strength from reading it. Sonny’s life was hard, like mine.”

4. Mitch “Blood” Green—Colorful World Boxing Syndicate Champion (a sanctioning body founded in 2002)

o Former WBC #7 Heavyweight Contender
o Defeated Percell Davis (W 10)
o Defeated Danny Wofford (W 12)
o Defeated Sammy Scaff (TKO 6)
o Lost to Mike Tyson (L 10)
o Lost to Trevor Berbick (L 12)
o Four-time New York City Golden Gloves Champion
o Won 19 (KO 12) + lost 6 (KO 1) + drawn 1 = 27

Mitch “Blood” Green’s Favorite Book: The Bible

“When I need inspiration, I turn to The Bible. It’s helped me through some dark times. And, believe me, there’s been many dark times.”

5. Shawn “Manos de Oro” Estrada—2008 Middleweight Olympian for the United States at the Olympics in Beijing, China

o 2006 U.S. Championships Bronze Medalist
o 2005 U.S. Championships Bronze Medalist
o Won a bronze medal at the 2005 US Amateur championships at 75 kg,
o Won a gold medal at the 2001 US Junior Olympics at 139 lbs
o Won 15 (KO 13) + lost 0 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 15 rounds boxed 32 KO% 86.67

Shawn Estrada’s Favorite Book: “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“I liked ‘Lord of the Rings.’ But I also like reading stuff by Steinbeck. You know what else I like? Action and adventure. I like reading some of Stephen King’s stuff, too.”

6. Sadam “World Kid” Ali—2008 U.S. Olympian (in Beijing)

o 2007 National Golden Gloves Champion
o 2006 National Golden Gloves Featherweight Champion
o 2005 Junior Olympic National Champion
o First Arab-American boxer to compete in the Olympic Games
o Junior Olympic National Champion
o PAL National Champion
o U-19 National Champion
o Two-time New York City Golden Gloves Champion
o Represented the United States at the 2006 World Junior Championships, where he won a bronze medal
o Won 18 (KO 11) + lost 0 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 18 rounds boxed 79 KO% 61.11

Sadam Ali’s Favorite Book: “Champion: The Story of Muhammad Ali” by Jim Haskins

“My favorite fighter is Muhammad Ali, so anything about Ali I like to read.”

7. Javier “El Intocable” Molina—2008 U.S. Lightweight Olympian (in Beijing)

o 2007 National Champion
o 2006 Junior Olympic National Champion
o Won a bronze medal at the 2006 Cadet World Championships at lightweight and a national title at the 2006 Junior Olympic International Invitational
o 2006 Cadet World Championships Bronze Medalist
o Is an honor student
o Defeated Joseph Elegele (W 10)
o Won 14 (KO 6) + lost 1 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 15 rounds boxed 65 KO% 40

Javier Molina’s Favorite Book: “The Adventures of Indiana Jones” by Campbell Black, James Kahn & Rob Macgregor

“If Indiana Jones was a fighter, man, he’d be the heavyweight champ of the world! He can knockout any snake or bad guy you put in front of him!”

8. Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade—2008 U.S. Welterweight Olympian (in Beijing)

o 2007 World Champion
o 2007 Pan American Games Silver Medalist
o Two-time National Champion
o Two-time Golden Gloves Champion
o Defeated Vanes Martinez (SD 12)
o Defeated Freddy Hernandez (W 10)
o Defeated Rudy Cisneros (KO 1)
o Defeated Grady Brewer (W 10)
o Won 20 (KO 13) + lost 0 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 20 rounds boxed 86 KO% 65

Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade’s Favorite Book: “Real Adventures of Johnny Quest” by Brad Quentin

“Adventure stories interest me. Every time I get into the ring it’s an adventure—and I’m the hero!”

9. Gary “Mr.” Russell Jr.—2008 U.S. Bantamweight Olympian (in Beijing)

o The Ring Magazine Prospect of the Year (2011)
o Two-time National Champion
o 2006 National PAL Champion
o 2005 World Championships Bronze Medalist
o 2005 Golden Gloves Champion
o 2005 USA Boxing Athlete of the Year
o 2004 Junior Olympic National Champion
o Defeated Miguel Tamayo (KO 4)
o Defeated Juan Ruiz (W 10)
o Defeated Vyacheslav Gusev (W 10)
o Defeated Roberto Castanada (KO 3)
o Won 24 (KO 14) + lost 0 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 24 rounds boxed 96 KO% 58.33

Gary Russell, Jr.’s Favorite Book: “The Coldest Winter Ever” by Sister Souljah

“Sister Souljah’s book is a tell-all story from a teenage girl’s point-of-view. From the drug life in the city to the privileged life. It’s a story that took me on a journey that I will never forget.”

10. Raynell Williams—2008 U.S. Featherweight Olympian (in Beijing)

o 2007 Olympic Test Event Champion
o 2007 National Champion
o Two-time USA Boxing Athlete of the Month
o Won 3 (KO 3) + lost 0 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 3 rounds boxed 4 KO% 100

Raynell Williams’ Favorite Book: “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling

“Harry Potter was exciting reading! I like it all—the witches, the demons, the gnomes and the monsters. Of course, I like the heroes, too. Oh, yeah, there’s another book I really liked—‘Shiloh.’ It’s about a poor, mistreated dog and a boy who saves him.”

11. Harry Keitt—Veteran New York City trainer

o Main character in the award-winning documentary film “On the Ropes”
o Trained James Moore
o Trained Dmitry Salita
o Trained James Walton

Harry Keitt’s Favorite Book: “Angels & Demons” by Dan Brown

“Someone suggested this book and once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. Loved it. But the ending was disappointing. It was like Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez inviting you home after a date, and just when you think you got it made, they slam the door in your face.”

12. Melissa “Huracan” Hernandez—Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA) Super Bantamweight titleholder

o Won Global Boxing Union Female Lightweight Title
o Defeated Lisa Brown (W 10)
o Defeated Layla McCarter (MD 8)
o Defeated Melissa Fiorentino (TKO 3)
o Won the 2004 132-lb. division National PAL Boxing Championships in Virginia Beach, Virginia
o Won the 2005 NYC Golden Gloves
o Won the 2005 Florida PAL Championship over Lena Taylor
o won 8 (KO 3) + lost 1 (KO 1) + drawn 2 = 11

Melissa Hernandez’s Favorite Book: “Natural Born Killers” by John August

“I liked this book because of the unity of the two characters, Mickey And Mallory. It’s the screenplay for Oliver Stone’s film. It’s a strange story about two lovers, Mickey & Mallory, on their honeymoon. They ended up killing 48 people. Even though this book is a bit dirty and nasty, I liked the fact that they worked together as a team. Unity and teamwork—you don’t see much of that anymore.”

13. Bob Jackson—Legendary NYC boxing trainer

o Member of the Boxing Hall of Fame
o Jackson trains out of Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, New York
o He has trained successful NYC boxers for more than fifty years
o Trained heavyweight world title contender Oleg Maskaev, 
o Trained former world bantamweight and super-bantamweight champ Junior Jones
o Trained former heavyweight contender Chuck Wepner
o Trained USBA junior welterweight champ Raul Frank
o Trained numerous pro contenders and Golden Gloves champs

Bob Jackson’s Favorite Book: “A Clenched Fist—The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion” by Peter Wood

“‘A Clenched Fist’ is a fantastic, one-in-a-million type book because it explains in a very graphic & colorful way, what it’s like to enter & fight in The New York City Golden Gloves. ‘Fist’ is a real eye-opener. I loved it.”

14. George “Blaze” Walton—Rugged New York City Middleweight

o Subject of the 1999 Academy Award nominated documentary “On the Ropes”
o Defeated Carl Daniels (W 6)
o Amassed an impressive 59-8 Amateur Record
o 1996 NYC Golden Gloves Open Middleweight Champion
o Won 17 (KO 11) + lost 3 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 20

George Walton’s Favorite Book: “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss

“What’s my favorite book? I don’t know…The Bible? Nah, that don’t count…Ok, one of the Dr. Seuss books.”

15. Wayne Kelly—American (New York-based) boxing referee

o Third Man for countless matches: Klitschko Brothers; Arturo Gatti: Riddick Bowe; Andrew Golota; Ray Mercer; Chris Byrd; John Ruiz; Junior Jones…
o Grandson of boxer “Harlem” Eddie Kelly
o Had a brief pro boxing career as a Light Heavyweight between 1975 and 1979
o Pro record:4 (KO 3) + lost 3 (KO 0) + drawn 0 = 7

Wayne Kelly’s Favorite Book: “Up Country” by Nelson DeMille

“Nelson DeMille is without question my favorite contemporary author. (Ernest Hemingway is my all-time favorite. They both have a vivid imagination and an unusual sense of humor.) DeMille’s characters tend to be tough guys with attitude problems. I get a laugh out of the humor and quick wit in these books. ‘Up Country’ by Nelson DeMille is a perfect example. It’s a story about a retired military police officer who investigates a 30-year-old murder of an army officer in Vietnam. This guy suspects there’s more to it than meets the eye, and can’t resist the opportunity for a nostalgic trip back to ‘Nam at the expense of the U.S. Government.”

16. Ron Ross—Boxing Author

o Author of “Bummy Davis vs. Murder, Inc.”
o Author of “The Tomato Can”
o Author of “Nine ... Ten ... And Out! The Two Worlds of Emile Griffith”
o Former fight promoter and manager
o Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America
o Inducted into the Long Island Jewish Hall of Fame

Ron Ross’ Favorite Book: “A Stone for Danny Fisher” by Harold Robbins

“Harold Robbins is a master story-teller. I identified with the main character in this book, and the New York setting—East Flatbush, Brooklyn—my old stomping grounds. Robbins’ writing is dead on and recently I re-read it. And you know what? It’s still a great read.”

(This is the eighth of a 10-part series)

Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part One
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Two
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Three
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Four
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Five
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Six
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Seven
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Eight
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Nine
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Ten
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Eleven
Peek Into the Soul of a Prizefighter—Part Twelve

Peter Wood is a 1971 NYC Golden Gloves Middleweight Finalist in Madison Square Garden;. Middleweight Alternate for The Maccabean Games in Tel Aviv, Israel, and author of two books: Confessions of a Fighter , and A Clenched Fist—The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion , published by Ringside Books. He has written a guest column for the New York Times, and has published articles in Ring Magazine, America Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul , and has been anthologized in Sporting Classics.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. bikermike 02:19pm, 04/19/2014

    Eric…I am a student of the Bible….which makes me even more the sinner that I am…..I’m a sinner..but I don’t want to legalize sin…Hell ....if everything were considered OK…..sinning wouldn’t be any fun at all…

    Having said all’d be surprised to find how many big name…not to mention the thousands of other fighters over the years….....that called upon their readings of the Bible to ......keep on ...keepn’ on

  2. Tex Hassler 06:03pm, 04/17/2014

    No one asked me but my favorite book is the Bible. I have read it through every year since 1973. It keeps getting better. I read a lot and have since the 5th grade but keep re-reading the Bible.

  3. bikermike 05:31pm, 04/17/2014

    ....and who was that guy…..“The Mouse’......who saved so many shows…by being called out of the crowd…to face the MAIN BOUT…..Guy….and the local opponent had to attend a funeral for his grandmother…for the fourth time….....Bruce the Mouse ...Strauss…or something like that….KING OF THE ROAD…so to speak

  4. bikermike 05:20pm, 04/17/2014

    ...a real good aricle…truely

    Gives a true appeciation of the fighters that kept the Sport alive…even now..with the corruption expposed on TV….

    I’m a Prize Fighter fan..and choose to accept Boxing as my measure.

    I’m .....getting old…..I can no longer present Professional Boxing in a ...major way I could in the seventies and eighties…....

    Cindy is gone…Fight fans are ....few and not so interested…..

    only seven of us at that Bradley/Pacquiao thing…....(seventeen at the last one….Pac/Marquez….KO…)

    Fight fans are ......few a days  

    BTW…the second hand smoke was just fine…..and I inhaled..

  5. bikermike 05:07pm, 04/17/2014 his time…Randal ‘Tex’ Cobb ..was a sought after character….he even made an appearance on JOHNNY CARSON…....true

    ...he cracked up Johnny and the audience abou t sixeen tines….but when Johnny rolled the vidio about one of Tex’s fights…....when Tex was winded ..and NEEDED that minute of rest…and just spit out what water he couldn’t drink…......a mess ...combined with the snot and blood…......
    ...Johnny asked him about ‘PROFESSIONALISM’ .....and Cobb responded…...BUDDY ...they don’t pay a nickle more for being neat .......
    Cobb is my all time favourite ‘prize fighter ...of my time…

  6. bikermike 04:48pm, 04/17/2014 cum DEE COLLIER never got his due….truley a prize fighter….didn’t pick off the little ones…went for broke…lotsa times
    ..Dee Collier was a good fighter with nothing behind him…made his money over the years…regular work…but ...from time to time…would…and could step in with some contenders and even champions….

    Dee Coller was a prize fighter…who didn’t give a shit about the promoters blowing smoke up his ....pantlegs…..he fought to pay the bills….and did a pretty good job of it….Dee was never a favourite of the ‘industry of the day’....but he got out and went in…at his own choosing…with the talent to do so

  7. bikermike 04:13pm, 04/17/2014

    eric…somebody asked them a question…they gave an answer…

    Efic…like a lot of other posters ..are are a well read gentleman….

    You’ve had the time and desire to do so….

    I only wretch about when Dubya showed just how unread he was..prior to his election to the position of PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA….But I never wretch about the lack of readings of Athletes

  8. bikermike 04:09pm, 04/17/2014

    see….this is where we have to come to an understanding….I’m in my sixties….and my grandfather…...on the Scottish side….(Scots went in for skilled battle…Irish were about violence and confrontation…genetics)

    My Grandfather…who was awarded a decoration from WW!...for bringing up a tank a critical moment in Passeondale…..was a good looking ...light of feet and balance…and not afraid of anyone.  (he never sought a match….he was Scottish)..;..from time to time..before 1914…he’d take a match ..for money the harsh environment of Prize Fighting ...sometimes he got paid…sometimes he didn’t ....before and after the GREAT WAR….he also did bronk riding…...

    Not all Professional Fighters want to be the Champion of the World….

    ..and just to make myself clear…Randall….‘Tex’ Cobb was my favourite fighter…..and gave Larry pain…...‘HANDS SORE LARRY…..scream\ed Cobb ...end of round severn

  9. bikermike 03:56pm, 04/17/2014

    ask a basket ball player….baseball player…or soccer/FUTBALL player…...what is your favourite book…or series of readings…......the most of them would.reflect upon immediate circumstances….I object to this line of questioning…(perry mason..aka bikermike)

  10. Eric 07:52am, 04/16/2014

    Hard to believe that “Tex” and “Blood” were avid readers of the Bible. Regrettably,  I’m not very familiar with the Bible, but doesn’t it say something about judging a tree by the fruit it bears, or something along those lines?  You just wonder how seriously these men took the Bible given the type of lifestyles they were leading at the time when they were in the public eye. Of course this is 2014, and not 1984, so both these men could be living completely different lives than they were while fighting, the aging process will do that to ya.

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